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Friday, January 7, 2011

Communion cups: Does type matter?

(Masip, 16th century)
As Rev. Ken Collins points out, it is still unclear whether Jesus used a single or a common communion cup during the Last Supper.

However, we do know that the Last Supper was greatly linked to Passover customs.  One such custom was to eat and drink while semi-reclining, rather than while sitting up straight in a chair.  According to Alfred J. Kolatch in The Jewish Book of Why, the reclining position had been adopted since Persian times, and was then also practiced by Jews, Greeks and Romans.  The biblical Greek terms anekeito, anakeimenon and anapese are usually translated by some form of the verb recline, rather than the verb sit. 

Collins therefore raises this question:  If it is so important to strictly follow the dining customs of the Last Supper, why then isn’t it essential to drink from the Communion cup while reclining?  Collins also explains that the Bible wording simply states that Jesus drank from “the” cup, and doesn’t conclusively specify whether this means “the” communal cup, or “the” individual cup.

Because there have been numerous health concerns regarding shared Communion cups, this issue is still
very much on the table.  Just recently, Newsday  reported that Hepatitis A warnings are being linked to the use of common Communion cups at a Nassau County, New York church.  According to The Free Library, this type of public health concern is far from new.  Reports of concerns linked to the use of common
Communion cups have been occurring in both scientific and religious publications since at least 1887.

Concerns have been reported not only about the danger of spreading infectious disease, but also about the heavy metals that many Communion cups are partially made of.  Churches have therefore been experimenting with ways of minimizing the possibilities of health risks.  Two such ways are to use individual cups made from healthful materials.

The question then remains:  Would these latter types of cup preferences truly affect the spirit and intent of


Kolatch, Alfred, J.  The Jewish Book of Why.

Copyright January 7. 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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